By Rebecca C. Lee | 09/04/2016
She found it in ENFLA.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”
I was born to be a nurse. This realization came to me later in life when, with a very heavy heart, I answered my beloved grandmother’s dying request for me to “come home” to see her one last time. I arrived at her bedside, consumed by grief, to find a hospice nurse waiting to lead my family through that difficult time. In that moment of vulnerability, I had no word for what she was doing, but I knew that I wanted to provide the same supportive comfort to others. That comfort is what Jean Watson refers to as the essence of nursing—caring.
At that moment, I knew I wanted to become a nurse. I went on to achieve my dream, eventually teaching and conducting research as a nurse faculty scholar. In this role, I have been able to touch and be touched by my patients, research participants, and students in the same way that the hospice nurse caring for my grandmother impacted the lives of our entire family. But despite achieving my dream, something was missing.
The 2010 Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health
issued a call for health organizations, including nursing organizations and nursing schools, “to provide nurses greater opportunities to gain leadership skills and put them into practice.” In response to that call, the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI)/Chamberlain College of Nursing Center for Excellence in Nursing Education launched the Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy (ENFLA). Using a triad model, the selected Leadership Scholars, Mentors, and Faculty Advisors work collaboratively to accomplish program goals and to facilitate each Scholar’s personal leadership progression plan.
I have never believed that things happen by chance. Receiving an email inviting applications to the inaugural ENFLA cohort at such a significant time in my professional career was no exception. Having recently been awarded tenure at my university, I paused to ask myself, “What now?” In reading the ENFLA application questions, I suddenly realized what was missing. Despite careful planning for my development as an educator and researcher, I had done little to nurture my leadership skills. Thus began my feverish completion of the application packet.
One of the first tasks on the application was identifying a Leadership Mentor. The relationship between Mentor and Leadership Scholar is based upon trust, respect, and commitment to a shared vision. I selected my Mentor, Gwen Sherwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and associate dean for strategic and global initiatives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, based on the reason I decided to become a nurse: human caring. How fitting that I first met Dr. Sherwood while I was a PhD student attending a conference of the International Association for Human Caring, of which she is a past president. Not only do we share a common area of scholarship in caring science, we also are aligned through mutual experience, expertise, and passion in the areas of interprofessional education, teamwork, patient safety, and transformation of nursing curriculum. Since our initial meeting, her growing list of accomplishments has served as a source of inspiration and an example of nursing leadership impacting health at a global level.
The next step in preparing my ENFLA application was identifying a leadership project. Building upon my expertise in care of vulnerable populations, I set forth a plan for leading the development, implementation, and evaluation of an interprofessional education intervention to enhance care delivery to vulnerable and marginalized populations. Once the application was completed, I clicked on “Submit” and said a prayer. I was honored to be selected as a member of that inaugural cohort.
The next stop on my ENFLA journey was the first workshop, held in October 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. At this venue, the selected Scholars came together with their Mentors and the ENFLA Faculty Advisors. I can still remember the excitement filling the room as we met each other for the first time and learned the identity of our assigned Faculty Advisor. Once again, I was blessed with an Advisor who complimented my passions—Carol Huston, DPA, MSN, FAAN, professor of nursing at California State University, Chico. I had never met Dr. Huston but had been an admirer since I listened to her deliver an inspirational message as president of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.
The opportunity to sit down with Dr. Huston and Dr. Sherwood and talk in depth about my leadership goals and vision was an opportunity of a lifetime. I smile as I recall our initial conversation and their insight and gentle reminders about aspects of my leadership project that somehow had never crossed my mind. If my ENFLA experience had ended that day, I would have felt it a resounding success. However, as I was soon to learn, the ENFLA Faculty Advisors and Mentors had much more in store for our journey of leadership growth!
Through the two facilitated ENFLA workshops and regularly scheduled conference calls with my Mentor and Faculty Advisor, I grew in my knowledge of leadership over the next year. I found myself eagerly reading leadership texts and engaging in leadership conversations with other nurses, faculty, and students. I also compared the unique styles of nurse leaders around me with my emerging vision of nursing leadership. During this process, I was drawn to the concept of servant leadership
, as defined by Robert Greenleaf. This understanding and appreciation of my own way of leading in the world will influence the remainder of my career. Thanks to my ENFLA participation and the wise mentorship I received, I am able to become the leader I was always meant to be.
My original leadership project also grew over time, gradually evolving into an exciting interprofessional education (IPE) endeavor titled “Enhancing Care of Vulnerable Populations Through Development of a Holistic Model to Evaluate Interprofessional Education.” The purpose of this project was to expand my leadership skills to successfully lead an interprofessional team in developing a holistic model to evaluate IPE experiences for health professions students caring for vulnerable populations in a community-based setting.
While collaborating to complete this project, I shared my ENFLA knowledge with my colleagues and students from across the Academic Health Center colleges of the University of Cincinnati—and, perhaps more importantly, with residents from at-risk communities in Greater Cincinnati. The insight these individuals provided about our emerging model was transformative. At the conclusion of my ENFLA experience, I proudly presented the model we co-created at STTI’s 43rd Biennial Convention in Las Vegas. This model now guides evaluation efforts for a weekly interprofessional, self-management clinic run by students and faculty in an area food pantry.
During the ENFLA experience, I gained valuable self-awareness, insight, and skills that allowed me to strategically create a dynamic leadership plan. This plan facilitated my development as a member of the Academy in my new role as a tenured faculty member, as well as a leader in IPE initiatives to enhance the care of vulnerable populations. Self-reflection, skillfully facilitated by both my ENFLA Mentor and Advisor, was a crucial component of my ongoing leadership development process. Through self-reflection, I moved from relying on external definitions and indicators of successful professional development and leadership to embracing a model that includes knowledge of my unique personal leadership qualities and style. Thus, the ENFLA experience helped me know and accept myself, as well as recognize opportunities for future leadership in advancing the care of vulnerable populations—locally, nationally, and globally.
Center for Excellence in Nursing EducationThe ENFLA provides experienced nurse faculty with the opportunity to reflect on personal leadership qualities and styles—and incorporate this self-knowledge in creating a tailored leadership development plan under the guidance of accomplished scholars in the field of nursing leadership. Planning, implementing, and evaluating the leadership project in partnership with colleagues in our respective universities further refined our leadership skills This collaboration with a supportive team—whose members possess diverse perspectives and expertise and who challenge the Scholar to expand previous boundaries—is an essential element of the leadership process.
. Rebecca C. Lee, PhD, RN, PHCNS-BC, CTN-A, is an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and director of the Institute for Nursing Inquiry at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.